Gordhan hopes Eskom striking employees will return to work amid stage 6 rolling blackouts

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The Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan says he hopes the Eskom employees who embarked on an unprotected strike will return to work on Wednesday.

Eskom is currently implementing stage four load shedding until four pm Wednesday afternoon after which it will ramp up to stage six, citing the effects of the strike.

Gordhan strongly condemns what he termed the striking workers’ intimidation and lawlessness. He expresses the hope that they will return to work as talks get underway later this week on a new wage offer.

Gordhan has however acknowledged the government’s failures.

“There’s no doubt that we must admit to our own historical shortcomings, the shortage of electricity didn’t start yesterday, or three years ago. It’s been around for some time, as has load shedding itself. And what we now have is a clear trajectory in terms of meeting both the energy requirements of the country on the one hand and also undertaking the just energy transition on the other hand as well.”

‘Worsening rolling blackouts’

Meanwhile, energy analyst Hartmut Winkler warns that the rolling blackouts could worsen as the country endured on Tuesday stage six amid an unprotected workers’ strike at Eskom.

The power utility has advised that it will switch between stages for the remainder of the week. Winkler says Eskom should explain the high levels of unscheduled maintenance.

“So, Eskom knew that this was going to be a difficult period, for them, I think that’s why they already warned us a month or two ago. They often talk about scheduled maintenance, equipment which is down due to scheduled maintenance, and things that are unscheduled maintenance. The unscheduled has always been about 15 gigawatts, that’s about 15 stages of load shedding, and that’s unusually high, and that seems to be persisting right through the year. I think Eskom maybe should be telling us that they are in a situation where a lot of their capacity, they’ve basically given up on, and that’s why they know that they can’t really do much.”

South Africans have reacted with outrage to the rolling blackouts:

Unprotected strike

Eskom has attributed some of its challenges to striking workers.  Lobby group, AfriForum says it has instructed its legal team to bring an urgent application to the High Court in Pretoria to compel law enforcers to take action against striking Eskom employees.

The unions the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)  and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) have urged the strikers to give the latest round of wage talks – scheduled for Friday – a chance.

AfriForum says the workers who are on an unprotected strike are intimidating and harassing their colleagues who want to work.

AfriForum says Eskom indicated recently that it had a court order declaring the strike unprotected. However,  AfriForum says Eskom has failed to enforce the order.

The group says power stations are national key points and the police should have already acted to stop the striking workers’ alleged intimidation.